Just recently, it was announced that TERA will finally be launching this May (link) in North America after several apparent delays. However, according to a lawsuit filed on 13th January 2012 by rival online games developer NCsoft, the launch date and plans might potentially be in jeopardy.
NCsoft Corp. filed a trade secrets and unfair competition lawsuit against rival Bluehole Studio Inc., claiming the company was created by former NCsoft employees (working on the fabled Lineage 3) who stole software and artwork to launch their own product. The full document can be read below.
In a complaint filed in New York federal court on Jan. 9, South Korea-based NCsoft, which specializes in massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, says it has brought similar claims against Bluehole and its ex-employees in Korea, but that Bluehole is now planning to release an English-language version of its game in the U.S.
NCsoft maintains that Bluehole and its U.S. subsidiary En Masse Entertainment Inc. were founded by a group of NCsoft employees who quit to go into business for themselves in the midst of creating a new game called Lineage 3.
“These individuals did not leave NCsoft empty-handed or with benign intent,” the complaint alleges. “To the contrary, they made off with copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware and artwork relating to Lineage 3.”
“Their business plan was simple and audacious: create a competing product using the very work they had done while at NCsoft, launch it themselves to great fanfare and acclaim, and, in the process, deal a crippling blow to their former employer,” the complaint said.
The former employees were convicted in Korea of stealing trade secrets from NCsoft in 2009, and the convictions were mostly upheld by an appellate court, according to the complaint.
NCsoft also lodged a civil complaint against the individuals and Bluehole in Korea in 2010. The company won damages and an injunction barring the individuals from using NCsoft’s proprietary information going forward. However, the damages award was overturned by an appellate court.
Appeals of both the criminal and civil cases are currently pending before Korea’s highest court.
Despite the litigation, Bluehole launched its game, Tera, in Korea last year, and has announced plans to release an English version in the U.S., the complaint alleges.
The current lawsuit claims that the U.S. version of Tera makes use of NCsoft’s trade secrets, including documents, source code, artwork and know-how related to the development on Lineage 3, and copyrighted works, including concept art created for Lineage 3.
It also asserts claims of breach of confidence, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
The suit seeks temporary and permanent injunctions blocking the release of Tera in the U.S., as well as enhanced damages for Bluehole’s alleged misconduct.
Bluehole was not available for comment on Friday.
NCsoft is represented by Gene W. Lee, Jeanne C. Curtis and Peter J. Brody of Ropes & Gray LLP.
Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available.
The case is NCsoft Corp. et al. v. Bluehole Studio Inc. et al., case number 1:12-cv-00172, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New York.